Chinese Tech Community in Silicon Valley Faces Dark Cloud of Layoffs

The cumulative number of layoffs in the technology industry so far this year is now estimated to have exceeded 100,000, most of which are concentrated in US firms such as Meta, Twitter, Lyft and others, according to statistics from The dark clouds are gradually expanding beyond tech into other fields such as finance, media and entertainment.

For the Chinese community, the tide of layoffs in the internet sector has spread anxiety. No matter if they are employees at large or small companies, programmers of all levels, overseas students waiting for employment, or even nonprofessionals who have dreamt of entering the internet industry by learning programming, their aspirations have all been doused in a bucket of cold water.

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After being laid off, Chinese programmers in the Silicon Valley have mainly felt pressure in two aspects. They have cars and houses, and their assets are of high value, but their cash is limited. Once they lose their job, they may need to struggle for a living.

On the other hand, pressure caused by visas is more urgent, as most Chinese employees in the Silicon Valley hold H-1B work visas. From the last time they received severance pay, the laid-off employees could be deported if they cannot find new jobs within a prescribed 60-day period.

For some, unemployment also destroys their self-confidence. One affected worker wrote online, “Many fellows would think that your ability is not enough… Family members and relatives in China will think that you are just a temporary worker… After being laid off, you still have some savings, so the pressure from your parents and family is the most difficult.”

The path to the Silicon Valley for Chinese students studying abroad is also narrowing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many students chose to postpone their enrollment. Last year, the impact of the pandemic on the United States gradually decreased, and university was officially opened for them, which led to two-year study students graduating in the same year, so competition in the job market was particularly fierce.

Many Chinese people in American technology companies have set up mutual help WeChat groups, in which members can exchange information, cheer each other up, and share updates on their companies and recruitment resources. Some suggest looking for opportunities in other industries, with one saying, “You can consider small and medium-sized companies or startups, let go of your obsession with big companies, and find companies with business in energy/manufacturing/to-business/to-government/medical care, such as Bloomberg and other financial companies in digital transformation. And many large pharmaceutical companies have added digital jobs at various levels.”

Others share ways to find a job through multiple channels, writing, “You can publish a short article on LinkedIn and send resumes widely, making it clear that you urgently need a job. Or you can contact friends, former colleagues and former bosses who work in big companies, and ask for internal job recommendation. Other ways include contacting doctoral advisor to see if there are any teaching posts that can be held or contacting recruiters that used to reach out can also work…” There are other suggestions such as transferring to travel visas, continuing to work in schools through “Day 1 CPT,” and appropriately reducing salary expectations.

Employees who have survived layoffs are also having a hard time. At Meta, a Chinese programmer who escaped layoffs said, “Everyone is working overtime, and so am I. I’m afraid of being laid off and can’t pay my mortgage.” According to some Chinese websites, 75% of respondents said that they are working harder than before.